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Reinventing Our Communities (ROC) Cohort

2021 Program: Equitable Small Business Recovery

ROC Participants Map

What is the Reinventing our Communities (ROC) Cohort?

The 2021 Reinventing Our Communities (ROC) Cohort Program is a 10-month training program for cross-sector community cohorts to promote equitable small business recovery from the pandemic. The 2021 program targets nine communities across the U.S., bringing together experts and stakeholders that will lead the training program. These communities are: Allentown/PA, Broward County/FL, Charleston/SC, Chester County/PA, Lancaster/PA, Las Vegas/NV, St. Cloud/MN, Wayne County/PA, and York/PA.

The program consists of four core areas: racial equity training, economic development training, technical assistance, and building a racial equity plan.

Guiding Principles

Reinventing Our Communities (ROC):

In order to reinvent our communities through structural change, the Community Development function of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia must support local-level capacity building on racial equity. Structural change requires local-level capacity to think, plan, and engage on racial equity, leading to community-led solutions for local challenges.

Defining Racial Equity:

We define racial equity as just and fair inclusion in an economy in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential, and race can no longer predict life outcomes (adapted from GARE and PolicyLink).

Why Focus on Race?

Racial inequities are deep and pervasive across local policy areas. Intentional, structural, and race-explicit strategies are needed to achieve meaningful and sustainable advances in racial equity and equitable pandemic recovery.

Our Approach to Systems Change:

Merging racial equity training with an applied small business focus enables cohorts to translate the theoretical to the practical and builds their capacity to apply a racial equity framework to specific issue areas.

Program Goals

The ROC Cohort Program goals are built on a Frame, Learn, and Apply model, enabling cohorts to:


  • Understand historical and current local-level polices impacting small businesses owned of color
  • Build a collaborative stakeholder table to address racial equity in their small business ecosystem


  • Center racial equity in addressing their community challenge
  • Build a toolkit of racial equity and small business support strategies
  • Develop a peer learning network with other cohort communities


  • Use increased racial equity capacity to identify which additional stakeholders are needed and how to bring them into work
  • Prioritize strategies to maximize racial equity
  • Use data, research, practitioner knowledge, and technical assistance to implement collaborative change

Lancaster County Cohort


Over this 10 month program, the cohort will:


  • Participate in racial equity training led by Race Forward, a nonprofit racial justice organization, and in smaller group trainings with practitioners with business expertise


  • Engage Lancaster County businesses and the larger community throughout this initiative to ensure their voices are represented in any strategies that are developed


  • Identify structural barriers that business owners face, and develop recommendations for equitable business recovery using input from the community, to enhance and fill in gaps that may exist in current initiatives

2021 ROC Cohort Program Training

The cohort teams will embark on a learning journey that will give them the tools to create a multiyear racial equity plan for equitable small business recovery and growth . The first part of the training will be lead by Race Forward, and the second part of the training will be focused on small business support training. 

In 2017, Race Forward united with the Center for Social Inclusion. Founded in 1981, Race Forward brings systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity. Founded in 2002, the Center for Social Inclusion catalyzed community, government, and other institutions to dismantle structural racial inequity and create equitable outcomes for all.

Why is this work important?

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted small businesses owned by people of color, accelerating existing systemic inequalities in small business ownership, growth, and access to credit. Prior to the pandemic, 58 percent of Black-owned businesses were at risk of financial distress, compared with 27 percent of White-owned businesses.1

Since March 2020, Black-owned businesses have closed at more than twice the rate of White-owned businesses and experienced steeper cash balance declines. Latino- and Asian-owned businesses have also experience disproportionate closures and declines in cash balances.2 Barriers to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other public and private relief programs, and accelerated financial distress contributed to 41 percent of Black-owned US businesses going into closure from February to April 2020.3

The closure of small businesses owned by people of color impacts the household wealth of business owners and affects employee job losses. If programs are not designed to address the systemic barriers facing business owners of color, inequalities are expected to worsen, and business closures will negatively impact regional economies.4 Developing program and policy responses that center racial equity in small business support, recovery, and future growth will provide direct support for business owners of color and likely create ease and access for others, moving toward an inclusive economy for all.

The 2021 ROC Cohort Program focuses on centering racial equity in small business support, including:

  • Racial equity in COVID-19 pandemic recovery
  • Financing and access to quality credit for small business owners of color
  • Small business ownership as household and community wealth building
  • Supporting transitions from sole proprietorships to community employers
  • Building equitable and sustainable local economies

Learning and Planning Journey

As the Lancaster County cohort team goes through the learning journey, we will continue to share insights we learn from the program, and our process to developing an equitable small business recovery and growth plan for our community.

Talk to a Cohort Member

Email us to set up a time with a cohort member and share your insights on this project.

Stay Updated

We will continuously publish information about our learning journey and about any strategies we develop.

Join the ROC Lancaster County cohort mailing list to receive updates on this initiative.